Seemingly irreconcilable conflicts are inherent to opposing world views, and at the center of them is Christianity. Often assumed is the specious idea that faith and reason are mutually exclusive. And this illusion is not going away in the foreseeable future. From this we learn that our objective as Christians is two-fold. On one hand, we must minimize the currently surmounting confusion in the skeptical mind by offering answers to difficult questions, while at the same time demonstrating to all that faith and reason needn’t be reconciled, for they are friendly neighbors in the biblical system of thought. In this series I will attempt to accomplish both of these objectives by way of a limited case study I conducted recently. Firstly, I will identify the three most common questions raised by twelve people I interviewed. Secondly, I will interpret the cause of the questions. Thirdly, I will answer them. And finally, I will discuss the solutions that I believe best address the root of these issues.
1.1. What is going on in my church/community?
The questions that have come to me through my interviews in and out of our church community are numerous, but there are common threads that connect them and which allow me to narrow them down to three primary categories. They are 1.) the problem of sin, 2.) the problem of suffering in the world, and 3.) the problem of freewill.
1.1.1. The Problem of Sin
Pertaining to sin, the questions were about what it is and why it exists. Specifically, why did God give man the potential to sin, or at least after sin entered the world, why didn’t God simply eradicate it? Must sin continue as the cause of so much trouble today? One interviewee preceded Adam’s fall (Gen 3:6) with a question about Lucifer’s creation and his eventual banishment from heaven (Isa 14:12). Why did God create Lucifer if He knew that he would fall into sin, lead a celestial rebellion, and consequently become the great tempter and catalyst to man’s sin? Immediately following this came the logical perplexity for why God didn’t destroy Satan immediately. Because these questions all are so closely related to one another in that they deal with sin’s nature and origin, I have put them together under the single heading “The Problem of Sin,” which I will discuss shortly.
1.1.2. The Problem of Suffering
The problem of suffering, and why there is so much of it, must be the single most popular criticism against the existence of an omnipotent and loving God. Permeating this topic were similar questions pointing to specific instances of suffering, such as war, famine and sickness. The troublesome part for most of those interviewed was not so much why suffering exists, per se, but rather if God is all-powerful and good, why don’t we see Him doing anything about it? Once again, given the related nature of these questions, I have chosen to place them together under the single heading “The Problem of Suffering.”
1.1.3. The Problem of Freewill
Interestingly enough, this last question, “Does man have a free will?” is in a sense more of a doctrinal issue than it is apologetic. Doctrinal because it rises from the face of Scripture specifically, but still apologetic because some atheists (i.e. Sam Harris) deny that man has a free will at all. Human beings are nothing more than animalistic machines with refined behavior. Therefore I believe it is fitting to address the problem of free will here, within the context of an apologetics study, for two primary reasons. First, because it was a common enough question asked in the interviews for this case study. Second, and perhaps most importantly, because freewill lies very much at the crux of the other two questions listed, the “Problem of Sin” and the “Problem of Suffering.”
In my next post, part two of this three-part series, I will address the eyeopening socio-cultural influence behind these questions, which inevitably overflows into the context of church life. Stay tuned and let me know what uThink!